Seven Reasons the Church Secretary Position Is Disappearing

I’m in trouble.

I just read the title of this post, and I know I’m asking for trouble. I might have offended some people already.

Hear me clearly. I am not diminishing the worth of church secretaries. I am simply noting a trend that few people are articulating. The position of church secretary is disappearing. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Many of the responsibilities are being replaced with technology. The Latin origin of the word “secretary” means, “someone entrusted with a secret.” For the traditional church secretary, it means dealing with telephone calls, letters, dictation, and filing in an appropriate and confidential manner. But look at those items I just listed. They have been, or they are being, replaced with technology. There are not many letters these days, but there are a lot of emails.
  2. Assistants are replacing the role of a secretary. The typical nomenclature for such positions is ministry assistant, executive assistant, or assistant.
  3. Church leaders desire assistants who can navigate the world of blogs and social media strategically. These responsibilities did not exist just a few years ago. Some church secretaries can make the transition; many cannot.
  4. Most of the responsibilities of a church secretary were reactive. Pastors and other church leaders seek strategic help. The church secretary’s position has been historically fixed and clearly defined. Assistants must adapt to a world where the responsibilities can change every week.
  5. Preparing the bulletin and/or the newsletter is no longer all time consuming. I can remember the days when the church secretary used clip art and physically cut and pasted articles. Those time-consuming tasks are no longer necessary.
  6. Church leaders desire assistants with time flexibility. The 30 to 40 hour workweek with the same schedule every day is ending. This fast-paced world demands workers with flexibility.
  7. Virtual assistants are becoming more common in church life. There are so many reasons virtual assistants are increasingly in demand. Leaders can determine the number of hours they want each week from a VA. One pastor of a smaller church uses a VA 10 hours a week and loves the arrangement. They are also easy to change or let go without the drama of an assistant who is physically present.

Church secretaries have been important and needed employees of churches for decades. I am grateful for them. But the times are changing, and so is the need for church secretaries.

If I opened a can of worms, please forgive me. But this trend is a trend that cannot be ignored.

Let me hear from you,

Posted on June 29, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • If I were writing the blog I would probably change “is disappearing” to “is being redefined.” I do think there are places where technology has made the traditional job description of a secretary superfluous. For us, “Ministry Assistant” is more descriptive than church secretary. Brian Jones from Senior Pastor Central has a blog post on “Senior Pastor Administrative Assistant Job Description” ( that is very helpful on this topic. I shared it with my Ministry Assistant, and we used it as a baseline for discussion about what makes sense in our context.

  • I could see a morphing of the position from “secretary” into a church intern type of a role.

    I recently had a discussion with a former senior pastor friend of mine about the church secretary position. He was a pastor who had fallen (it involved a secretary), but was later biblically restored. He also told me of another pastor or two who had fallen because of inappropriate relationships with secretaries. Interestingly, he said that if he ever became a pastor again, he would possibly get a male, church intern to handle administrative duties. The intern could learn about church life, see how church business is handled and also learn practical, pastoral ministry.

    note: this post is not about females in the workplace or that every church secretary will lead the pastor astray. I just thought this was an interesting perspective from a real life pastor.

  • Beverly Schlomann says on

    with my husband (and my son, who is a church planter) their “secretary” is their smartphone — with their own calendar, phone, email. There is no need to call an office or have me make appointments when they can be reached directly.

    • Thom Rainer says on


      • DAVID HENDERSON says on

        Agree with this completely. I am also thinking of placing a different message on my phone for voicemail with a softer touch, perhaps from my wife. Perhaps this would add the “feeling” of a virtual assistant.

      • But my pastor doesn’t want to have anyone and everyone calling him on his cell phone…that’s why he has me. This allows him to focus on the larger vision of the church and concentrate on areas of ministry that desperately need him.

    • Yes, our pastors have iphones w/calendars, but, in my experience, they don’t want 2,000+ church members to have access to their cell phone number. They’d be bombarded, and that’s not good use of their time. A secretary/receptionist/assistant will manage their appointments and capably handle most of the calls personally, re-direct some to other church staff and/or pastors, and field very few calls to the lead pastor…in addition to a hundred other tasks necessary for a healthy/functioning church. I am one of 5 “secretaries” at my church (we have 1 full-time receptionist, 1 part-time receptionist, and 3 full-time ministry assistants). Our work is vital, and not everything can be done virtually (many tasks can, but not all). A good assistant is worth her/his weight in gold, according to the 10 pastors and 3 directors we assist! We free them up to do what they are called to do, and we see this work as our calling.

      • Julie Peters says on

        Though I totally agree with your post, the average American congregation is still runs under 200 people. Lord, bless the large churches…but it is simply not prudent for smaller churches now that there is so much technology to utilize.

  • As the pastor of a smaller membership church, I find that we lost this position long before my tenure (ten years). It would certainly be nice to have someone in at least a part-time capacity that could take on some of the regular tasks which could but aren’t being done by volunteers, and should have some regularity about them.

    In the rural setting that we are in, our church members still call the church phone first (about 2/3 of the time).

    I’m very intrigued by the idea of a virtual assistant, but being 2-3 steps behind the times, as I seem to stay, I’d like to have more details about this resource–what’s the cost? how does it work? what can be expected of a va? Help those of us who aren’t quite cutting edge understand.


  • 1st Presbyterian Church of Itasca says on

    We scaled down several years ago. Working only 18 hours a week, our “Church Administrator” position now involves the wearing of several hats that include things like the typical secretary responsibilities plus bill paying, vendor management, supply inventory and orders, website, quarterly newsletters, monthly calendars and weekly email communications to name a few. The wide variety and volume of responsibilities in such a few hours each week keeps the job interesting and challenging. A good fit all the way around!

  • Becky Powers says on

    I have served in my church for 13 years with the title Ministry Assistant, first to the Students and Singles ministers, now to the Pastor. I agree that what the “front office” people do is much more than “secretarial” work, but that has probably always been true in a church office. We do wear many hats, dealing with benevolence issues, with families during a time of death or other tragedies, etc. The times are definitely changing, but I believe, more than ever, it’s important to have a person in place to greet and deal with people on a face to face basis.

    Perhaps the bulletin and/or newsletter isn’t as time consuming as it once was, but social media demands attention also and that has become one of my responsibilities. That is definitely not a 9-5 task.

    I think your title could have been better stated as “SEVEN REASONS THE CHURCH SECRETARY TITLE IS DISAPPEARING.” The position is still there, just different as you said.

  • Your title is all semantics and obviously seeking to elicit responses. It’s not that I disagree with you, however, the position isn’t disappearing but the role is changing.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Rich –

      “Your title is all semantics and obviously seeking to elicit responses.”

      I respectfully disagree on both counts. I am familiar with my motive for writing the article and it was not to elicit responses. I could have written it in a much more sensational fashion if that was my desire.

      Second, the title is not semantics. The role of secretary is disappearing. And it is not merely morphing into something else as uniform. As you can see from the variety of responses, churches are seeking employees with distinctly different roles. Most of these roles are not progressive forms of secretaries.

      • Rich Smith says on

        Thom, I greatly respect you and your opinion and I think we are saying the same thing in regards to the morphing of the roles of church secretaries. I wasn’t being contrary.

  • Thorsten says on

    Could you do a follow up article on the concept of virtual assistant and how churches can best use one?


  • Bill Pitcher says on

    Our church has a “Church Coordinator” position. She handles many things a secretary needs to do and many others. It’s more of an administrative assistant. It’s about an 8-10 hour week for our small church.

  • Cindy McCord says on

    I agree. I’ve been our church secretary for going on 16 years and have seen it change over the past 2-3 years. We are a smaller church and most active members have the cell numbers of our pastor and music director. They call them directly 99% of the time and bypass the office. From what I have observed the younger members of our church do not stay in as close contact as our senior members do which has also helped to cut down activity in the office.

    • Thank you, Cindy.

      • Our church secretary that has served as our senior pastors exec sec…has resigned and leaving…it appears that media and communications with high tech skills are more important than pastors the new testament local church is disappearing.. due to the mega church …teaching the Bible, fellow shipping with one another, breaking bread together and praying is not important…but being social on facebook twitter, et cetera is the means to reach the lost…but it does not build a strong local church….virtual is definitely the case

      • Churches as they use to be are just about gone and it really does not make me feel good. Churches do not have the standards that they use to have and a lot of other things have changed. I am so sorry to see all of this go as the people are not as close in unity as they use to be and no fellowship. We all need the fellowship of God’s people to grow together. More then that we really need some old time preaching that hell is hot and eternity is long. Yes I am an old timer but it was a lot better back then.

  • David Vaught says on

    Our secretary is also our corporate secretary, and handles all of the state and federal forms for us. She doubles as worship leader, which is a blessing. I wonder if the future of the position is this type of multiple hat-wearing…

    • That is fascinating. You might be on to something.

    • Most of the times someone needs to hear a real person when making a call. This person may only wants to hear someone to minister to his or her soul for a few second for a new life and light to shine. I think as ministers, we need to be mindful about not conforming our call as caring. for souls or standing in gaps to help others.
      Thank you.

      • Amen! We are in the people business, and people need people, not machines and people who are wearing eight different hats. I’m not saying that the way the church office administrator does their job shouldn’t change, it should and is, but nothing can replace a real person on the phone and in the office. Our church office has people coming and going daily, and all are grateful that there is someone to handle their needs. One of the negative results of all the technology and social media is that people don’t take time to relate to people anymore. And yet, that is what everyone seems to be searching for the most. I think it would be another poor show of customer service to eliminate this position.

      • Well said and so true. I was a church secretary for over 11 years. I talked with countless people who needed someone to listen to them. People need to know they are important and having a person to talk to far outweighs any kind of technology. There were many things that a Church Secretary does that can’t be reflected on a job description or even written down.

      • That is right. I completely agree. This is especially for our older folks. They need that physical contact of a “real person”. Most times such employees are regular church attendees and ministers.

      • I agree. Churches are not a business. Churches are people oriented.

  • Shannon Sauer says on

    Very true Thom!

    • Thank you, Shannon.

      • Kimberly Osment says on

        And McDonald s is replacing cashiers as are most grocery stores and the recession is increasing and poverty increasing and stress and less accountability and life is complicated. And sad and lonely

      • You nailed it. Technology can be good, but also very bad. We’re losing human touch, human interaction, human emotions. Sad indeed.

    • Very informative. Gives me affirmation that we are moving over next 2 years from a full time secretary to several hourly paid assistants costing about half.

      • Deb Kearney says on

        Interesting. And will expect them to be as invested in the health and well being of the church family and the church organization to the same level as that full-time person? Will they have to clock-out to sit and hold the hand of the father who just found his son’s body hanging from a tree while waiting for the pastor to arrive so as not to waste money, you know. SMH.

1 2 3 4